A-Zone International is a Taiwanese company that makes most of its money out of marketing collectable dolls. However, it has recently began to manufacture a valve (tube) amplifier, with a matching iPod dock.
A-Zone assemble the units using valve amps made in China, and other companies sell them as OEM products. The combination features a 2×15 watt tube amplifier with two 6N1 and one 6E2 tubes, an iPod dock and charging station, remote control, audio output, composite video input, S-video output, and aux input (so you can run your TV or other audio sources through the amp), and a pair of 8 ohm, 50-watt speakers in either faux leather, ebony, or faux-wood finish.
The speakers and remote are elegant enough, but a little generic. The major attraction is the iPod dock and the amp. The mixture of hi-tech minimalism that is the iPod, combined with the uneven chrome, metal and glowing glass sculpture of the valve amp and dock look fantastic. And yet it goes beyond that.
Contributed by: Brett Jordan
The NBA playoffs are under way and if you’re a sports freak (little bit a theme going today, sorry) you may want to look at some of the NBA iPod cases from XtremeMac.
XtremeMac is the only vendor that is authorized to sell NBA cases for the iPod video (US$30) and nano (US$25). Unfortunately, they don’t have a case yet for every team (you know, licensing) but there’s probably something on the list you’ll like.
There’s no Dallas Mavs cases, but they do have a kickin’ Miami Heat case for the iPod video. Here’s the breakdown of cases that are available:
- Dwyane Wade
- Lebron James
NBA Basketball not your thing? they also have some MLB iPod cases too:
- Red Sox
- White Sox
- Red Sox
Speck Products has released their first hardware product for the iPod – the Specktone Retro. The Retro is a three speaker tabletop docking system for any iPod that is designed in the style of a retro table radio from the 50s. It’s constructed of real wood (most of the iPod speakers out there are made of plastic) and features a brushed aluminum backlit green volume control knob that gives it a sleek elegance.
The Specktone Retro features a 4-inch subwoofer and 28 watts of power – more than enough to fill a good sized room with sound. It also includes a 1/8-inch mini plug auxiliary input on the back for jacking in other audio sources. I have been jamming out to my Specktone (in black, thank you) over the weekend in preparation for the Pearl Jam tour and have been more than impressed with the sound quality.
The Specktone costs considerably less than other iPod speaker systems at only US$149 and has a lot more style. My only gripe is that I wish it came with a remote control so that I can pump up the rockin’ songs (“Big Wave”) and skip the slow, sucky ones (“Come Back”). I guess that there’s always room for improvement.
The Specktone Retro is available now in black, green and white for US$149 and comes with two free iPod skins for the video and nano.
The original iPod was a triumph of form and function. It looked great, its interface was simple and intuitive, and it stored and played thousands of songs in an attractive, portable unit.
My first iPod was a ‘third generation’ 20GB model. It was the first model that I considered to have enough memory to carry around a library of songs that represented my CD collection. I then upgraded each time there was an increase in hard drive capacity. As a result, I now own a 60GB iPod Photo which I listen to through my car, studio and home stereo system.
I love elegant, simple design. The problem is, when a designer simplifies things, they have to leave stuff out. And one designer’s ‘disposable’ is another person’s ‘essential’. I think there should be a couple of programmable buttons on the iPod, allowing you to bypass the menu system for your most-used functions. I would employ them to switch between shuffle and sequential mode, and to allow instant access to the ‘Contacts’ list, but I’m sure a wide range of uses would be found for them.
In an ideal world, I would also like to be able to edit data that is contained on the iPod, but I do understand that this would clutter the interface. One of the reason’s for the iPod’s success is that it does one thing very well. It is an entertainment unit, not a PDA.
However, there is a function on the iPod that allows you to input data while on the move – the ‘star-rating’ system. I find the conventional use of the ratings system doesn’t work for me. I like all the songs in my iTunes collection, that’s why they’re there! And how much I like them depends on mood and context, not on any kind of permanent ‘star’ rating.
The folks over at Griffin Technology have released a new set of lanyard earbuds for the iPod nano – TuneBuds (US$35). They snap on to the dock connector port on the nano and have the earbuds creatively wired through the lanyard avoiding the “spaghetti factor” of tangled wires.
TuneBuds are based on Griffin’s EarThump earphones (US$20) and come in back and white to match any nano. TuneBuds feature a noise isolating design, neodymium dynamic micro-drivers and ship with three different-sized silicone inserts to fit any size ears. Bonus: they’re US$15 cheaper than Apple’s version.
There are functional iPod cases and there are cool looking high-design models, but usually you have to choose one or the other. The MicroFolio case from XtremeMac is the exception.
The MicroFolio (US$39.95) is a folio-style case that wraps your iPod in soft leather in either black, brown (pictured), dark brown or saddle with a unique textured interior. It’s basically an iPod wallet with a soft interior to protect your iPod.
The MicroFolio also features interior pockets for your ID, credit card and a few bucks. When you flip open the flap, you can easily operate the clickwheel through the protective membrane. The screen is also covered to protect it from scratching.
Best of all there’s no dorky belt clip or Batman-like holster to ugly up the MicroFolio. It looks like it could just as easily have a tag from Diesel attached to it and matches this year’s washed and worn leather style. The accented stitching adds a nice touch without being distracting.
If you’re looking for an iPod case that’s all about style, this is it. The MicroFolio fits both the 30 and 60GB iPod with video and is shipping now from XtremeMac.
Apple is quite fond of filing for patents, especially those that surround its widely used iPods. But who can blame Apple for doing so? Any creative or unique idea could very well turn out to be a big revenue generator for Apple, considering that iPod and music sales make up a huge portion of Apple’s income.
While the new patent doesn’t cover a touch-screen iPod video, it does give light into a new navigation system that Apple is working on for future iPods. Because more and more users are using iPods in situations where they are unable to look at the screen, such as while driving, Apple has made it so it is possible to navigate the iPod menu system without taking your eyes off the road. While scrolling through the menus, the iPod will speak back what item is being selected so that users will be able to listen to what’s going on.
The Alpine CDE-9852 head unit with KCE-422i interface cable is probably the best integrated iPod automotive solution in the $200 price range. I received my unit from Crutchfield with a custom bezel and adapter plug to fit my car, making installation a breeze. This unit will support a subwoofer and I will most likely add one, but the Bass Engine equalizer control allowed me to add significant bass emphasis without the mid-bass tubbiness that you get with a simple tone control. I replaced the paper cone factory speakers several years ago with same size Polk speakers and they sound significantly better with a bit of equalization and the loudness contour turned on. What is there not to love? Great sound, direct control of my iPod and 2,000 plus songs at my fingertips. The display will scroll through Artist, Album and Song Title along with elapsed time. Sounds like heaven. Well I do love this unit and hate it at the same time.
Griffin Technology has redesigned and updated their PowerJolt iPod auto charger. The new PowerJolt comes with a detachable 48″ USB to Dock Connector cable that can be used for normal syncing and docking operations with your computer and the new 2006 PowerJolt package also includes a 48″ USB to mini-USB cable which can be used with the Griffin iTrip, iTrip nano and a number of modern cell phones and other gadgets. The new PowerJolt works with the 5G iPod (video), nano, shuffle, photo, and 4G iPod (click wheel) and is available now for US$20 from Griffin Technology.
Now if more mobile phone vendors (cough, Treo, cough) would standardize on mini-USB ports for their power connectors.